Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 111 – Dorcas Gazelle


Dorcas gazelle in the desert

“We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing we set back the progress of humanity”
Rachel Carson

Dorcas gazelle The small and graceful Dorcas gazelle continuously falls prey to what is left of the indigenous four-legged occupants of North Africa and the Middle East. Natural hunters such as lion, caracal, Arabian wolves, cheetah and leopard. But, the efforts of all these predators combined are no match for humans and the havoc they have wreaked upon the species. Little surprise to most, of course, since this seems to be the prevailing cause of decline in ninety-eight per cent of all wildlife today.

Although the Dorcas gazelle has long been, and still is, subjected to traditional hunting for meat, hides and horns, the killers have now upped the ante.

Current, uncontrolled pursuance of the species in high-performance, four-wheel-drive vehicles, carrying trigger-happy assassins armed with powerful modern weaponry, is something which patently needs to be addressed by the hosting countries. Who, shamefully in some cases, issue permits for this barbaric enterprise.

Hunting Dorcas gazelle in LibyaIn most parts of its range, however, hunting the gazelle is deemed illegal, but it continues regardless and a blind eye is often turned by the authorities. And, just as often, groups of militia are among the bands of slayers.

For those who see killing as an enjoyable past-time, the opportunity is but a phone call and a credit card away. There are plenty of blood-thirsty safaris, for the right price, where you will find everything laid on for you, right down to the freely available permits which can be bought at the airport upon landing.

Horrendous mental images leap to mind of ruthless, like-minded men and women standing up in the back of open-topped, fast-moving, specially adapted motor vehicles. Their weapons (often automatic) loaded and ready to discharge as they rapidly gain on the animals, preparing to pick them off at will. The faces of the executioners aglow with anticipation – rather like those of innocent children waking up on Christmas morning. But the outcome here is far more sinister.

Dorcas gazelle runningDorcas gazelle can travel up to sixty mph when threatened, and like all other gazelle, speed is this gentle ungulate’s only asset when defending itself. But in this case, the advantage of being fleet of foot is lost to the superior vehicles and their cold-blooded hunting parties. Within a short time whole herds are found, overtaken and massacred – the unfortunate victims of large scale slaughter for the entertainment of the few, in their eternal quest for amusement.

Atop of that, the gazelle’s habitat is rapidly shrinking in the face of human invasion. In recent times, the development of wells and boreholes has seen an influx of humanity pouring into the desert, along with their livestock. 

Dorcas gazelle herdThat the clean water supplies have saved lives, there is no doubt. Both human and non-human animals have benefited greatly. But now, converted to farmland; cattle, goats and sheep graze the arid landscape where abundant Dorcas gazelle once roamed freely, slowly squeezing it out of its habitat.

These activities have all influenced the decline of the Dorcas gazelle and have led to these delightful, placid creatures becoming extinct in several parts of Africa. Now is perhaps the time to ensure no further vulnerable populations are lost to human greed, callousness and oversight. The irony being, they are now marginally safer from their natural predators as most of them, too, have been aggressively hunted down and killed for meat, hides, body parts and recreation.

Dorcas gazelle Al Wabra Wildlife PreservationThese diminutive, perfectly assembled creatures are little more than two feet in height and weigh, at most, forty-five pounds. They sport ringed horns which curl backwards and inwards, and grow up to fifteen inches in length. The female horns tend to be thinner, paler and not quite as curved.

Their coats are a palish sandy colour on top with a deeper colouring of two differing brown strips along the edge of the underside where the coat becomes white. Heads are darker than bodies with well-defined facial markings. They have short, almost black tails used constantly for flicking away insects in the intense heat of the desert.

And, they absolutely thrive in the desert. They are able to withstand extreme temperatures in their far from hospitable, parched environment, and manage to derive all the moisture they need from the plants they consume. But survival is not just about food and water. The Dorcas gazelle still has a few natural predators left, like the caracal and hyena, and the Arabian wolf, and perfect eyesight allows them to efficiently watch out for such dangers and call to each other when anything fearful is spotted. “Stotting” takes place, which involves taking bouncing leaps with heads held high, along with shivering and tail twitching, which are all are used to warn the rest of the herd when something is amiss.

Dorcas gazelle - newborn hiding in the shadeAt such times, calves are kept well-hidden from potential harm. Newborns, arriving after a gestation period of six months, are usually well-developed and able to stand within the first hour, but not able to defend themselves or run with the herd, so a secure hiding place is a must. The females, having separated from the group to give birth to the new calf, will stash the little one in the bushes or long grass for the first few weeks of its life, which also leaves her free to graze. The calf will be strong enough at two weeks to follow its mother in short bouts, and by three months it will be fully weaned. Those who survive the rigours of life in the wild can expect to live for a further twelve years.

A few extra thoughts…
The Dorcas gazelle, along with a few other ungulates, is extremely important as a seed disperser for a variety of Acacia plants in the areas between Israel and the Red Sea.
The Dorcas gazelle once roamed the entire Sahelo-Saharan region in great numbers.
The species is now extinct in Senegal, possibly Nigeria and, it is thought, Burkina Faso as well.
Dorcas is the Greek translation of the Aramaic name Tabitha, meaning “gazelle”.

Dorcas gazelle are also known as the Ariel gazelle.

Dorcas gazelle distribution Natural Habitat
Savannah, low hilly outcrops, semi-desert, absolute desert, steppe and wadis (dry gullies).
North and North East Africa and parts of the Middle East (Israel, Jordan, Syrian Arab Republic and the Yemen)
What they eat
Leaves, grasses, flowers, young shoots, fruits and acacia pods.
Excessive recreational hunting with powerful modern weaponry.  Habitat degradation due to land conversion and overgrazing by livestock, and drought.
Status: Vulnerable
The Dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable (at high risk of endangerment in the wild). It is also listed in CITES Appendix III (Algeria, Tunisia) and included in the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) Sahelo-Saharan Antelopes Action plan for the conservation and restoration of the species, on CMS Appendix I.
All told, the species is either legally or partially protected in most if its range countries. Some of these include designated reserves. Unfortunately, these laws are often ignored. Captive breeding programmes also exist.
There are only some 35,000 – 40,000 Dorcas gazelle living in fragmented populations in the wild today, whose numbers are declining rapidly. Further animals can be found in zoos and private collections around the world.

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27 thoughts on “Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 111 – Dorcas Gazelle

  1. Pingback: Mountain gazelles discovered in Turkey | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Hi Amelia, the Dorcas gazelle are absolutely beautiful. I hadn’t ever had access to so much information about them at once in the one place..

    It’s really distressing the level’s that people will sink to. It is a shame that the laws that protect these animals are not enforced. It seems people have been getting away with it for so long without consequence they don’t fear any penalties 😦

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share this with us 🙂

    Miss Lou

    • I am so glad you enjoyed the post, Miss Lou, and thank you for lovely comment. I agree with you – laws need enforcing and the penalties need to be far more severe or they will just keep on doing what they seem to enjoy so much. I apologise for the late reply and am thrilled you have taken the time to visit and comment. Hugs, Amelia 🙂

  3. I felt your passion with this one and it brought sadness to my day, unusual sadness I should say. Sadness for not only these gazelles, and all other life brutally murdered every moment of everyday, but sadness—not for the perpetrators, I have nothing but deep seated contempt and despise for them—but for the inevitable end; a realization that for anything to change it will take catastrophe or millennia, or both, to do so. For all we do, we can’t do enough. Thank you, Amelie, for all you do.

    Strength and courage

    • I am afraid I have to agree with you there, Peter. There is little we can do in a hurry when faced with such poverty of mind and soul. But I rather liked this quote by Reinhold Niebuhr:

      “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; Therefore, we must be saved by hope”

      Thank you for always sharing your unwavering love of animals with us all, Peter. It is truly inspiring. ~ Amelia 🙂

  4. I have seen these beauties in the wild, all grace and speed. As long as Mankind self-entitles as a superior species, atrocities and crimes will keep taking place on the defenceless. Paradoxically, “superiority” needs weapons and fast vehicles. Heartbreaking to say the least. Thank you, Amelia, for another outstanding article.

    • How wonderful it must have been for you to see them running free and wild, Carmen. You must feel very privileged. Of course, stick man on the ground without any artificial hunting aids and he would indeed end up the witless victim. But sadly, this will never happen, and the vehicles will just get faster and the weapons more long range and powerful. Tragic state of affairs! Thank you for your never-ending support, my dear friend~ Amelia ♥

  5. What a beautiful animal…those dainty legs are perfection. Breaks my heart how people hunt our animal friends. I love that Carson quote too – so very true.

  6. First of all it’s good to see you pop up in my inbox. It’s been awhile and I was beginning to worry that something might be amiss with you. Secondly, these are such adorable little creatures and I can’t imagine anyone being able to shoot them just for the fun of it. Too bad we can’t arm them and put them in a fast moving vehicle and let those that have done that to them be their targets! I will NEVER understand the senseless killing of any of God’s creatures. Hugs Amelia. Love, N

    • Senseless indeed, Natalie. If we could turn the tables, though, I doubt the animals would even think of behaving like like this. Man is the only one capable of seeing killing as an act of fun.

      Thank you for your concern – I am very touched. I’ve had a few ‘busy’ weeks. Six weeks of builders in the house have left a lot of cleaning up and decorating to be done. I am running out of steam! To boot, I managed to fall of a ladder doing the ceilings, and sprain my wrist – which could have been worse, I suppose! Then we had some bad news as my son-in-law’s motor bike was hit by a car whilst he was on his way to work one morning. He is going to be alright, but had a lot of surgery, and may not regain the use of his right shoulder. Very sad. He is only 23 years old.

      Hope life is good with you, my friend. Hugs, Amelia ♥

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    • Sadly, they lack the ingenuity to this. This worse thing of all being, across the globe, they have the misguided idea that fast vehicles and guns make them more of men, too. But can such attitudes ever be changed! Thank you for dropping by and reading, my friend. Hopefully, there will be an end to it all one day. ~ Amelia

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